Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pop Offensive returns this Wednesday!

Those of you who are despairing at the prospect of world peace, take heart. For this coming Wednesday, October 1st, the globe-trotting musical ambassadors of Pop Offensive -- that's Jeff Heyman and yours truly -- will be returning to the airwaves at Oakland's 9th Floor Radio, armed with enough catchy choruses and barnstorming beats to bring a kick to the step and a smile to the face of even the most black hearted of puppy-kickers. Not to mention that we will also be welcoming a very special guest!

The show can be streamed live from the 9th Floor site starting at 7pm PT, after which it will be available in the Pop Offensive Archives, where it will stay fresh forever. During the show, please tweet your comments, rants, requests, pleas, dire premonitions, and complaints to @PopOffRadio.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

B 14, Parts 1 and 2 (Ghana, 2012)

A couple of years ago, a trailer for a Ghanaian film called 2016 swept the internet. A rapturous concatenation of dire CGI, shouty narration, jaw dropping violence and baby punting, it was truly the stuff of which memes are made. That trailer and the film it advertised were made by an outfit called Ninja Movie Production--and directed, written, shot, and edited by a person, entity, or cooperative going simply by the name Ninja. And while the rest of the world outside Ghana has since moved on from 2016 to Grumpy Cat, ice bucket challenges and other worthy distractions, Ninja Movie Production, bless them, have stuck with the business of making blisteringly insane shot-on-video action movies, of which 2012’s B 14 is a stirring example.

B 14’s action plays out against a backdrop of gang warfare. The B 14 gang is lead by lady boss Lan Di (Rose Mensah), who has returned from India with both an understanding of the supernatural and a mysterious bodyguard in a Matrix-style duster named Scorpion (Ntul Andrew). She also has a trio of minions whose sole purpose seems to be to line the wall and look comically glum as she berates and threatens them. Each of these has “B 14” branded on his or her shoulder.

Conflict flares when rival boss Storm (Joseph Osei, a child) steals a stash of cocaine that Lan Di has earmarked for an unseen “white man” and then attempts to sell it back to her. This does not sit well with the fearsome Lan Di, who -- thanks to the talents of actress Mensah -- has a habit of constantly working her mouth into a variety of unsightly shapes. Meanwhile, a sage-like old soldier named Appiah (Ebenezer Donkor) has a mysterious “black box” that Lan Di is eager to get her hands on.

In addition to all of this business, B 14 features a number of subplots which collectively seem intended to portray the toll that cocaine has taken on Ghanaian society as a whole. A friend of Mr. Addo’s son, who dreams of becoming a pro soccer player, snorts coke to boost his performance. A woman named Joyce disapproves of her sister’s “lifestyle” (she is, presumably, a drug whore.) The mother of Jonny, Storm’s bodyguard, wants him to leave his life of crime, etc. Much of this is communicated in a lot of energetic and casual sounding dialogue by a young cast who often seem like they are just goofing off in front of the camera.

But it is in those moments when Ntul Andrew’s Scorpion takes center stage that B 14 truly springs to life. Scorpion, you see, can materialize and dematerialize at will, and also has the ability to project from his palm -- alongside your usual flames and laser beams -- something that looks like an angry black turtle head. This is followed by a seemingly endless length of heavy chain which he uses to bludgeon and impale all whom he doesn’t feel like engaging in a stylish kung fu battle, thus providing the occasion for much of B 14's poorly rendered CGI blood splatter. Oh, he also reads people’s minds by turning their eyes into little TVs.

Ghana, like Nigeria, likes to turn its single movies into franchises by bisecting them at a random point and then slapping a “2” on the second half. Thus, B 14 Part 1 manages to end with very little resolved or even explained. Despair not, though, because B 14 Part 2 gets off to a roaring start, with Scorpion killing Jonny’s sister by smacking her eyeballs out of her skull and then killing her mom. When Jonny comes looking for revenge, he kills him too, putting a chain through his temple. Meanwhile, we see that everyone in Ghana, from the water lady to the workers in the field, have taken to sniffing cocaine for its magical, energy-giving properties.

We then meet Sarfo and George (Owusu Addai Evans and Adams Ali Rusel, respectively), two young footballers who want to both win fame and preserve Ghana’s good name by bringing Lan Di to justice. Together they seek counsel from the wise Appiah. Cue the training montages.

While amateurish, B 14 still occasionally rewards the viewer with moments of base-level competence, and sometimes even goes beyond that. The fights are entertainingly staged, if marred by some weirdly arbitrary use of slow motion, and the off-the-cuff nature of the dialogue gives the film an engagingly homespun feel. It also has to be said that Kwaku Adu’s throbbing techno score, while ramping up the tension in the action scenes, brings a lot of camp value to those in which little is happening. Fortunately, that is not very often, as the film seems just as interested in getting to the next fight as you are.

One of the biggest regrets I’ve had over the course of writing for 4DK is how little coverage I have given to African pop cinema. That is because that cinema, as I’ve experienced it through the films of Nigeria, tends to be longwinded, soap operatic and preachy, with the occasional moment of biblically-inspired what-the-fuckery to give it interest. Thus, I have avoided it, because I don’t want the only films made by black people that I review to be boring movies that I make fun of. And now here is Ninja and his (her? their?) crew, who -- with their quirky, ragged edged and energetic take on the action genre -- come to me, not as more of the same, but as something of a find.

A find for which I am unexpectedly grateful. For, as long as there are nations like Ghana, with nascent exploitation film industries itching to run (and kick… and stab… and shoot) before they can walk, there will be fuel for blogs like mine to continue puttering obsessively along. Given that, I doubt that this will be the last you’ll hear about Ninja Movie Production and their films, or that I will be the only person you’ll hear it from.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

An important message about my book, Funky Bollywood

About my book Funky Bollywood I have good news and bad news. Fortunately, it is only mildly bad news and very, very good news. I have just signed with the UK's FAB Press, those reputed purveyors of high quality niche cinema books, to publish and distribute Funky Bollywood throughout North America, Europe and the UK. This puts it in the company of some of the finest books on cult cinema in recent memory, such as Stephen Thrower's Nightmare USA, Jasper Sharp's Behind the Pink Curtain, and Mark Schilling's No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema, to name but a few.

Needless to say, this is an announcement I am very proud to make. With FAB's support, not only will the reach and accessibility of Funky Bollywood be greatly increased, but also its quality. The book, which I had originally planned to self publish in black and white in order to keep costs to both me and the consumer down, will now have the benefit of full color printing. This means that both Bollywood and the stunning design work of my good friend Andrew Nahem will get the lavish treatment that they so deserve. Good news, indeed.

And now for the bad: In order to give the book the treatment it deserves, in terms of both production and advance promotion, FAB has requested a delay of the release date. Thus, my original release date -- which was, um, next weekend -- has been cancelled, replaced by a date sometime in 2015 that is to be announced. To those who were looking forward to having the book in their grasp within the next week, I offer my humblest and most sincere apologies. But, as consolation, please know that, at the end of that longer wait lies a product of a much higher quality than what you would have had otherwise.

I am also sorry to be delivering this news so late. Sadly, my experience as a musician has made me cynical and loathe to shoot my mouth off about any kind of "deal" until the ink has dried. Well, now it has dried, and all you and I have to do is wait for the publication date, which I will notify you of as soon as I know. And please know that I am every bit as impatient as you are, but that I will strive mightily to keep us all distracted with all the cool stuff that I have coming up on 4DK.

And on that note, I want to thank all of you for your continued readership and support, without which I am sure I would never be in the position to deliver this thrilling -- albeit, for you, perhaps somewhat disappointing -- news. Stick with me, people! We can do this!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Of wild women and were-beasts

They came from as far away as Tokyo for last night's Shout Down, and The Twilight People rewarded them generously. Simmering bromance, Pam Grier writhing sensuously in tiny clothes, and a literal batman were among the wonders on display. And now those of you who missed the "live" experience can witness it via the neatly condensed Storify transcript linked below:

The 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down:
The Twilight People on Storify

And now a preview of next month's feature, as the 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down celebrates Halloween with class:

It's all happening Tuesday, October 7th at 6pm PT. For my thoughts on Bloody Pit of Horror, a tremendously fun and stupid movie, see my Teleport City review here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tonight! The 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down goes hybrid with THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE!

It could be said that participating in the 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down has slowly stripped the Shout Down crew of its humanity, reducing us to an animal state in which we roam the internet in packs, hunting for ever more bizarre films to sink our teeth into.

Tonight, the steaming carcass on which we will feast is THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE, a Roger Corman-backed U.S./Philippines co-production that pays lurid homage to "The Island of Dr. Moreau". All you have to do to gorge along with us is sign on to Twitter at 6pm PT sharp and, using the hashtag #4DKMSD and the handy link below, tweet your reactions to the wonders unfolding before you.

To be honest, this is actually a pretty entertaining film, as I pointed out in my Teleport City review , so, if you can, you should at least join us for the watch-along aspect of the evening, even if you are not moved to comment. We'll be looking for you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Next Tuesday: The 4DK Monthly Movie Shout Down goes dark with THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE!

Most 4DK readers would head for the hills at the slightest mention of Twilight... Wait! Come back! You see, The Twilight People, the subject of next Tuesday's Monthly Movie Shout Down, is not that kind of a Twilight movie. Instead it's one of those Philippines-shot, Roger Corman produced horror fantasies that happens to feature a young Pam Grier as a ferocious -- albeit sexy -- human/cat hybrid. It's actually very entertaining, blissfully free of sparkly vampires, abstinence messaging, or hollow-eyed Hollywood ingenues. For further testimony as to it being tolerable, why not check out my review of the film over at Teleport City. Or, hey, just check out this trailer I made on my phone:

Sold? Good. Then join us on Twitter, next Tuesday, September 9th, at 6:00 pm PDT as, using the hashtag #4DKMSD, we tweet along to this choice piece of Pinoy-sploitation. It would behoove you to do so!